Exploratory tests
Jose Aracil Head of QA

Exploratory tests: what is it, key aspects, and why do companies want to use it

Before explaining what Exploratory Testing really is, let's imagine for a moment that we are investigators of a crime scene, CSI style, who have been assigned to investigate a murder.

For this investigation, we have restrictions, we can only stick to a provided script, not being able to deviate from the predefined set of programmed actions to get to the bottom of the crime.

For this reason, we are seriously hampered in our investigation to be able to solve the murder unless the results of the actions and the questions from the provided script align.

This is exactly what automated or scripted testing does. It only looks for errors in the predefined set of designed tests, and therefore other types of tests, such as exploratory tests, need to be carried out to determine the quality of the product.

But, what really its Exploratory Tests?

It is a testing approach in which testers embark on a process of research and discovery to test a product effectively. They explore the application to identify, document and discover hidden errors in those aspects and functionalities that may or may not directly affect the results of the system, investigate its cause and rectify it, with the aim of finding underlying errors. This is what exploratory testing is all about.

There are no predefined test cases in exploratory tests, this does not mean that the tester in charge of carrying out these tests does not prepare them, this leads to fewer restrictions for the tester and freedom, and personal responsibility to learn and iterate without looking for a predesigned response that cannot be deviated.

One of the good practices that exploratory tests must meet with is that it must be able to answer the following questions:

  • Does the application perform the function for which it was designed?
  • Does the application work in multiple scenarios?
  • Is the application performance good enough?
  • What potential mistakes are there?

For which we will follow the following three stages that are not independent of each other and exist as a single cohesive function or test cycle.

Learning. One of the most important functions a tester needs is to understand the application or website they are testing, much of this learning will happen in real time, as you begin to explore and test the software. This understanding provides context and includes information such as competitive benchmarks, industry knowledge, and company details. For certain types of applications, a tutorial may be necessary.

Design. Exploratory testers can run the test in any way they see appropriate and do not have a desired or expected result. Often times, the exploratory testing technique leads to the development of more rigorous scripted test scenarios over time.

Test management can help decide the device, circumstances or conditions if the test applicant has not yet established it.

Execution. The tester is free to complete the test as he wishes. This freedom means that no one is waiting for written requirements and creative work can begin as soon as it is requested. The tester can begin to observe and learn about the application or the website. After this phase is complete, the results are compiled and reported through the appropriate methods.

Exploratory testing techniques

There are different ways to perform exploratory tests. The three main types are:

Freestyle tests: as the name suggests, these are tests in which each tester selects a module or the entire application and runs it randomly. It's like a quick smoke test done to ensure that everything is implemented as expected.

Scenario-based testing: in this type of exploratory testing, each tester selects a user scenario and tests the application flows around that use case. They try to cover as many navigations, data permutations, and flow as possible to ensure the stability and functionality of that scenario.

Strategy-based testing: This type of testing involves implementing core testing methodologies in an exploratory test. In this test, the experienced tester would apply black box techniques to the application.

Advantages of exploratory tests

Finding more defects. A major benefit is that exploratory testing finds defects that automation simply can't. Automated tests are limited to the test cases that are written for them. Will not find any errors outside of this scope.

Speed ​​of test cycles. Exploratory testing does not require extensive planning. The scope of a test cycle should be clear, but detailed test cases are not needed. That's because testers are trusted to test what they think should be tested. By comparison, automated tests are quick to run tests, but planning can be time consuming.

Idea generation. The required creativity of testers and the fast pace of exploratory testing means more ideas are being created.

Disadvantages of exploratory tests

Getting it right is tough. Exploratory testing relies heavily on testers. It can be an expensive and difficult skill to acquire, so finding the exploratory testers you are looking for can be difficult. For this you can entrust your project to testing experts like us.

Measuring ROI can be complex. Measuring the success of short-term exploratory tests can be complex. For example; you think about running a marathon, you can't train ten hours a day each week before the race and expect you to do well. It takes months of regular training to be successful. The exploratory tests are the same. Long-term consistency will yield better results than short-term intensity.

Execution and control of exploratory tests

Although exploratory tests are eminently executed manually, there are tools on the market that help us with the execution, control and management of this type of testing assets. At Izertis we recommend the use of XRay Exploratory Testing, especially in those projects where Jira is already being used. As a specialized XRay partner we can help you implement this solution, contact us.

Throughout this article, we have talked about what exploratory tests are, what are its advantages and disadvantages, but, do you know when you should implement these types of tests?

These are the top 5 scenarios where exploratory testing can be a huge benefit to your testing strategy.

  1. You are not sure which tests to run.
  2. You want to diversify the testing process after a guided testing cycle.
  3. You need to receive quick feedback on a product.
  4. You want to quickly understand the ins and outs of a new version.
  5. Want to find more defects!

If it is still not clear to you whether you should include this type of testing in your strategy or organization, from the Izertis QA team, we will be happy to advise and guide you so that you can choose the best testing strategy to follow for your company or project.